Excerpt from Then We Take Berlin by John Lawton, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Then We Take Berlin

by John Lawton

Then We Take Berlin by John Lawton X
Then We Take Berlin by John Lawton
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2013, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2014, 432 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

3

He'd never flown the Atlantic before. He'd flown plenty of times. His years in the RAF had seen to that. He'd scrounged flights almost like hitching car rides. But he'd never done a long haul. It was the stuff of Sunday colour supplement advertising. "International" was a positive in the adman's world. It implied you were beyond the pettiness of nations, that you were post post-war, that you moved in a world peopled by the likes of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, that you sat in the VIP lounge at airports, and had a bag emblazoned with the name of the airline. Things like that were coveted. It was chic to be seen with a cheap plastic holdall marked BOAC, chic-er still to be seen with the one Wilderness now had bearing the Pan Am logo.

Frank hadn't been mean with him. Whatever Frank's faults—lies, tricks, half-truths, cheapness was not one of them. First class all the way. The hostess handed him a package as soon as he took his seat, saying "A present from Mr. Spoleto."

Inside were two books and a note in Frank's hand saying, "Don't get too bored."

He looked at the titles. The Ipcress File. King Rat. An hour out of Heathrow he abandoned the former in favour of the latter. Too damn difficult. Fifty pages into the steamy jungle of King Rat he fell asleep. Woke, read another fifty and napped again. When he awoke the second time, the plane was over Newfoundland. Canada, America . . . New York. As the Fasten Seat Belt sign came on, the man sitting next to him spoke. Overweight, balding, brimming with bonhomie, capable—Wilderness thought—of rattling on for ages. But, they'd exchanged half a dozen pleasantries over the meal several hours ago, and then the man had slept the uninterrupted sleep of a seasoned traveller sedated on free champagne and Southern Comfort.

"First time?" he asked. A question left over from the simple pleasantries that he hadn't asked first time around.

"Is it that obvious?"

"You get so you can tell. Just the way a guy looks around. The way he talks to the hostesses."

"Too nervous?"

"Too polite. Too grateful. We paid for all the stuff they thrust at us."

"Or," said Wilderness. "Somebody paid."

"Right. Who'd ever pay for their own ticket? Ought to be down as one of the rules in the game of life. Play it right and somebody else will always pay."

It was a disappointment. For some reason, doubtless a stupid reason, he'd expected to be able to see skyscrapers the second they stepped out of the terminal. There were none, they were way out on Long Island in a big, flat nothing. Idlewild seemed to be the right name. He strained towards the western horizon, hoping at least for a glimpse of Manhattan. He stood next to the fat man in the queue for Checker cabs. Every one that pulled up made him feel a mile nearer to the city. A fleck of deep, warm yellow somehow just blown his way. They were at least six places away from getting a cab, when a tall, black man in a grey suit approached and asked if he were Mr. Holderness.

"Sorry to be late, sir. An accident on the expressway. Mr. Spoleto's car is waiting. We'll have you in Manhattan in no time at all." Wilderness knew he should offer the fat man a ride, but he wanted to be selfish, to enter the city without the voice of experience jabbering in his ear. Manhattan was worth approaching in innocence. Find out for himself. He just shook his hand and said, "Thanks for the motto. I'll treasure it."

"Motto? What motto?"

"Play it right and somebody else will always pay."

"Oh that."

He was still chuckling at his own wit as the Negro picked up the suitcase and led Wilderness across the lane to a Cadillac. A big car. A ridiculous car. Low-slung, fat, covered in chrome and sporting huge rear fins. It reminded him of a beached shark. Cadillac Deville Sedan, the driver replied, when Wilderness asked.

Then We Take Berlin © 2013 by John Lawton; used with the permission of the publisher, Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Water Will Come
    The Water Will Come
    by Jeff Goodell
    Standing in a Manhattan neighborhood after Hurricane Sandy, Jeff Goodell, a contributing editor at ...
  • Book Jacket
    Pachinko
    by Min Jin Lee
    Pachinko has one of the best opening lines I've encountered in some time: "History has failed us, ...
  • Book Jacket
    Wolf Season
    by Helen Benedict
    Rin Drummond's nicknames include "Pit Bull" and "Dragon." She's a tough-as-nails Iraq War ...
  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Dry by Jane Harper

Winner of the 2017 BookBrowse Debut Novel Award

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Days When Birds Come Back
    by Deborah Reed

    A graceful testament to endurance, rebuilding, and the possibilities of coming home.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Milk Lady of Bangalore
    by Shoba Narayan

    A charming story about our deep connection to the animals who live among us.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Mothers of Sparta

Mothers of Sparta: A Memoir

A dazzling literary memoir with shades of Mary Karr, Anne Lamott and Jenny Lawson.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A M I A Terrible T T W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.